Foster care eligibility
Am I eligible to apply to become a foster carer?
There are very few excluding circumstances, and many more people are eligible to apply to become a carer than realise they are!
You must be over 21, you must be an Australian citizen or have permanent residency, and you must have a spare bedroom for any child placed into your care. You must also be willing to submit to a Criminal History Check & a Working With Children Check. A criminal record does not automatically rule you out: each situation is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
If you are single or in a relationship, working or a stay at home parent, a home owner or renter we are happy to hear from you. We have no religious affiliation & welcome applicants regardless of ethnicity, faith, gender or sexuality. By the same token, you must be tolerant of people from different backgrounds. Children entering care come from a range of backgrounds and for this reason carers need to be tolerant and open to people who have different cultural backgrounds and be willing to support any child placed into their care to maintain their cultural identity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to already be a parent?
No, you do not need any parenting experience. If you do already have children any foster children placed with you usually need to be at least 2 years younger than your youngest. While you may be able to build your family through foster care and provide a child with a permanent family, fostering is not the same as having a birth child and is not a direct alternative to conception. If you have been undergoing IVF, we require you to have completed IVF treatment more than 12 months before applying.
How do I become a foster carer?
Start by reading our how to apply info and when you’re ready, complete our on-line enquiry form. We’ll then contact you to discuss your interest further. After that the application process will take anywhere up to 6 months, and includes:
- attending a pre-approval training course
- having a home safety inspection
- participating in an assessment of your whole family or household
- a Criminal Record Check and a Working With Children Check
How long does it take to be assessed and approved as a carer?
Carer assessments are carried out to ensure children placed in foster care are safe. Assessments can take as little as 3 months or as long as 8 months – there is no set timeframe for this, it is as individual as you are, and depends on how long it takes to get checks, training and paperwork done.
What support will i get?
As a Stretch-A-Family carer you will have a caseworker who will visit you and keep you in the loop. You can call or email your personal caseworker for support or advice, as well as having access to a 24-hour phone support line. SAF also runs locally-based Carer Hubs for peer support and you will have access to regular free carer training events through the year. SAF runs occasional recreational and fun events for all our carers and the children in their care – both fostered and biological. Carers receive a fortnightly financial allowance for any child placed in their care (see below).
Is there financial assistance available for carers?
Yes, carers receive a fortnightly tax-free reimbursement based upon the needs of the child. This is not a wage, but a payment to cover the day-to-day living costs of any child placed in your care. Read more about what this financial assistance covers.
Can I say ‘no’ if I’m offered a placement?
The short answer is yes. All placements are matched to the best of our ability so that the child/young person and the carer are given the best chance of the placement succeeding. If you do not wish to take a placement then it is in no-one’s best interests to force it to happen. We provide as much information about the child/young person as we can so that you can make an informed decision.
How long do children/young people stay in foster placements?
Each child/young person’s circumstances are unique – some need somewhere to stay for a short time, some need somewhere to call home until they are ready to move into independence, and some stay in foster care while their families work to change their circumstances so that they can return home.
Details are often unknown, especially when a child initially enters care. Being able to provide stable care for a child or young person in an uncertain situation is one of the important traits necessary in a successful foster carer.
Do you need to have a relationship with the child’s birth family?
Carers need to understand children in foster care have family already. While they are unable to live with them, this may only be temporary. Even when a child cannot return home, they need to be supported to maintain relationships with their family. Children need carers who can maintain a positive attitude towards their birth family and help them to stay in regular contact. Some carers arrange contact directly with birth family, but often it is arranged and supervised by the case worker or a contact worker.
Children in foster care have usually experienced some kind of trauma – what support or training is offered to carers to help them deal with that?
Training in topics such as therapeutic parenting, understanding trauma, and managing challenging situations is part of the assessment process. All foster carers have a case worker to provide advice and practical support. For children and carers who need additional support, your case worker can refer you to professionals such as psychologists, paediatricians and speech pathologists.